An ethnographic investigation of junior doctors' capacities to practice interprofessionally in three teaching hospitals

J Interprof Care. 2015;29(4):347-53. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2015.1004039. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Collaborative practice among early career staff is at the bedrock of interprofessional care. This study investigated factors influencing the enactment of interprofessional practice by using the day-to-day role of six junior doctors in three teaching hospitals as a gateway to understand the various professions' interactive behaviours. The contextual framework used for the study was Strauss' theory of negotiated order. Ethnographic techniques were applied to observe the actions and interactions of participants on typical working days in their hospital environments. Field notes were created and thematic analysis was applied to the data. Three themes explored were culture, communication, and collaboration. Issues identified highlight the bounded organisational and professional cultures within which junior doctors work, and systemic problems in interprofessional interaction and communication in the wards of hospitals. There are indications that early career doctors are interprofessional isolates. The constraints of short training terms and pressure from multi-faceted demands on junior doctors can interfere with the establishment of meaningful relationships with nurses and other health professionals. The realisation of sustained interprofessional practice is, therefore, practically and structurally difficult. Enabling factors supporting the sharing of expertise are outweighed by barriers associated with professional and hospital organisational cultures, poor interprofessional communication, and the pressure of competing individual task demands in the course of daily practice.

Keywords: Communication; complexity; ethnography; interprofessional collaboration; interprofessional practice; professional boundaries; professional cultures.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Communication
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Physician-Nurse Relations
  • Professional Role
  • Teaching Rounds